Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nurse the Hate: WSET Diploma Blues 2

I continue to slog ahead in the WSET Diploma still wines unit.  The amount of information is completely overwhelming.  I am hopelessly behind after my two week stretch zonked out on Nyquil, Robitussin, Espresso and Whiskey.  I knew I was in a real tight spot conceptually a week ago.  It is one thing to feel like things have gotten away from you as an overall idea.  "Yeah, I got to pick it up over here."  It reminds me of being that guy in a college history course that hasn’t opened the book yet with the exam creeping ever closer.  Whereas the rest of the class is drilling down on the designs of the Bayeux Tapestry, I’m the guy that is listening to Circle Jerks records, drinking beer, and not totally sure of where France is even located on a map.  Well, that’s not completely accurate.  I spend almost every free moment reading wine texts and doing tastings on obscure wines.  I just can’t do it fast enough to keep up. I'm not retaining enough information because I might be slightly brain damaged.

It all became evident that things had gotten out of hand when I received a practice test for the week from my online classroom.  Let me give you a feel for it.  One of the questions is this:  

With reference to the wines of Europe, write about FIVE of the following:

  • Assyrtiko
  • Dolcetto
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Hárslevelü
  • Mencia
  • Scheurebe

Uh-oh.  If I was in the exam, I would stand up and walk out of the room directly to the airport.  It would be somehow more noble than the answers I would provide.  Off the top of my head, my answer would be something along these lines. 

Assyrtiko I assume is something Greek.  I’ve never had it.  That’s because I don’t eat Greek food and no store near me carries Greek wine because there are about a million other wines in the same price point that are better.  I’d drink it if they offered cups of it at gyro carts near crummy bars I guess.  Dolcetto is the Italian red wine that people drink in Piedmont when they are sitting around a café eating sausage and hard cheese and that’s what the café offers by the glass.  You’d rather have a Barbera, or a Barberesco/Barolo but you don’t want to spend $65+ on a bottle that your dipshit friend that is with you won’t even appreciate.  They call it “the little sweet one”, which was sort of a way to con the peasants into thinking this clearly inferior wine to the others in the region was just fine for them.  Gruner Veltliner was every East Coast somm’s favorite white wine for about a minute because no one had heard of it and it made them seem cool to recommend it.  It’s acidic and citrusy.  It’s pretty good but why not just get a Riesling instead?  It’s usually much better.  Let that douchebag somm with the waxed beard sell Gruner to tourists in Brooklyn.   Harslevelu is a grape used in a wine that you get poured at your ethnic early 20’s girlfriend’s house by her grandfather who made it in the garage.  His could rip the paint off a car.  It burns your throat so badly that from that point on you sing like Tom Waits.  From that one experience, you never touch the stuff again.  When blended with furmint it makes a beautiful dessert wine the Russian Royals enjoyed after a nice day of genocide on their people.  Communism was no good for Harslevelu.  Tough to sell sweet wine in Hungary to people that couldn’t afford potatoes.  Harslevelu is now noteworthy in America for being in the one very dusty bottle of Tokaji on the bottom shelf in the same general area as where they keep Marsala in most decent wine shops.   Mencia is the new cool grape from Spain that is like a low rent Zin.  No one has heard of it as the Bierzo region where it comes from is like the West Virginia of Spain.  This is what those D-bag Gruner Veltliner somms moved onto after they realized other guys with waxed beards were also trying to sell Gruner to everyone.  A good thing to say if you want to sound cool in DC is “I had this amazing organic Bierzo last night.  100% Mencia.  Hand harvested.  Fucking killer.”.  Scheurebe is a super obscure German/Austrian grape that was some unholy science experiment by the Dr. Mengele of grape doctors in Germany.  It’s this very aromatic grape that they make sweet wines that no one is interested in because no one is interested in the even better sweet wines they make from Riesling or Muscat or gewürztraminer either.   If you find this in a wine shop it got there by mistake, or some wine sales rep was trying to win a sales contest and shoved it down the poor wine buyer’s throat.     

My gut feeling is that the answers I just provided will not fly amongst the WSET grading staff.  While my answers are not technically wrong, and I have, in fact, “written” about these wines, I don’t think the tone and/or tenor of my answers are what they are looking for in an exam format.  If you want to get down to it, they are asking you to “write about” these topics.  So if I answer with something like “It was the 8th of July and I was on a chopper outside of Fresno drunk to the gills on Scheurebe I had clipped from a BevMo when the cops started chasing me.” I think it is technically “writing about” scheurebe.  I don't know though.  Once again, I might need to focus on retaining more info on the actual grape and resulting wines.  I think my writing style and current focus might be an issue at WSET.

It’s a hell of a thing I’ve gotten myself into…


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